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Gear Matters: Tour de Bicycles

Cycling gear blog by resident guide John Millen - Sherpa ExpeditionsEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month he looks at rental bicycles: what to pay attention to when you first receive them, what to bring along on a cycling holiday and what to wear. 


Unless you are signed up on a dedicated road biking or mountain biking holiday, nearly all cycling tour operators like Sherpa offer hybrid bikes as their usual bicycle rental provision. These humble steeds have coalesced from the mountain bike evolution as the industry standard. They may share multiple gears, disc or cantilever breaks, and maybe some degree of suspension similar to mountain bikes. They also may have panniers or connections at least for racks and comfy touring seats. The wheels and tyres are narrower which make them more efficient on the road like the older-fashioned touring bikes. Hybrid bicycles get used on gravel tracks and dirt roads as well. 



Ready? Get Set. Go!

Normally when you hire your bicycle with us and give us your dimensions, we can source a more or less correctly sized bike for you. When you receive your rental bicycle and before your first ride, make sure the brakes are progressive and the wheels don’t lock on braking too easily. Check if your wheels aren’t buckled, a slight movement is however quite normal. Check that you can get into all the gears without a fight, and that the front derailleur doesn’t rub too much on the chain. At extreme gear ranges this does happen - but it means that you shouldn’t be cycling in extreme gear ranges…!


Sherpa guide John Millen on a cycling holiday in France


A rental bicycle with full cycling gear - Sherpa Expeditions

Nuts & Bolts of Cycling Gear

To get more out of rental bicycles a lot of people elect to bring their own clip-in pedals such as SPDs and a 15mm wrench for changing the existing pedals. Sometimes the operator can do this for you, which saves you worrying about stripping the crank via cross-threading. Clip-on pedals can offer you more direct power transfer during pedalling when they are used well, but take a bit of getting used to. 
Although your bicycle will be cleaned and serviced for you and include some basic tools, sometimes stuff gets missed. It is important to bring a quality multi-tool yourself to do on-road adjustments: you don’t want to have to waste holiday time calling someone out for a minor adjustment. Never over tighten bolts and Allen screws (they are usually aluminium and can shear), gentle hand tightness is usually just fine. A very small bottle of oil for chain lubrication is also recommended to bring along on your cycling holiday. Apply sparingly to all links and wipe off surplus with a cloth. It is amazing how quickly your chain will start squeaking in a very irritating way if you had a run of wet weather!

Such is the versatility of pocket tools these days. I have had the pleasure of reconnecting a mountain biker’s snapped chain within five minutes in the watery wastes of the Pennines. He would have had a long lonely walk out without that… 

‘Tyred’ Out

The main dread for many is the hissing deflated ego caused by a puncture. Once you get the hang of fixing a flat tyre, it only takes about 12 minutes to be on the road once again. Normally you are given a spare tube at the start of your cycling holiday and it is prudent to partially inflate this before you leave. Just in case it has perished or the valve has unexpectedly failed. I normally carry two inner tyres plus patches, three nylon tyre levers and a high capacity mini pump. There is no room here to talk about the most efficient way of changing an inner-tube, I suffice to say that after a puncture often people forget to pull out of the tyre what caused the puncture in the first place resulting in puncture number two. An extra note on tyres: running the bicycle tyres at correct pressure is important especially on the road. In wet conditions it may be worth reducing pressure by 5-10% to allow for better grip and in sand or gravel maybe by 20%.   


Bicycles in front of a pub in England - Sherpa Cycling Holidays


Garments are part of your cycling gear - Sherpa Expeditions


Cycling Garments

Besides spare tyres, you may also receive helmets and water-bottles to get you on your way. For hygiene reasons you ought to bring your own bottle and for safety and hygiene reasons you should bring your own helmet. Even if they look fine, it is hard to know the impact history of a helmet, unless you have bought it yourself. If you are wearing a helmet make sure that it sits correctly on your head! I have seen people wear them too high or even round the wrong way. 
Talking about what to wear, Lycra: let’s face it, it is not flattering on 85% of people. If you are just on a cycling tour you can get nice shell shorts with many pockets and still have a discreet padded seat with Lycra inserts for comfort. You will feel more at ease walking into that coffee shop. 
Cycling tops are useful and they have handy pockets and pouches like a hamster. The advantage of baggy shirts however, is that they’re nice and airy. Some of the fabrics today quickly dry overnight if you rinse them through. A lightweight water resistant garment is worth stuffing somewhere and nowadays you can buy neoprene overshoes really cheaply to keep your feet dry and warm. 

Don’t forget those energy bars, drink powders and potions to keep you on the road!


Find the full offer of Sherpa Expeditions cycling holidays here.

In Popular Demand: e-Bikes

A modern electric bicycle for your Sherpa Expeditions cycling holiday (c)Dornenwolf



They are becoming more and more popular: e-bikes – also known as electric bicycles or booster bikes. Although it is never a bad idea to practice a little ahead of your holiday, they can be a fantastic option if you want to go on a longer cycling holiday but are not sure if you can cover each day's distance.  


With the current techniques, the bicycles look much like any other bike that you know. The battery (usually placed under the rack of your bike) makes the bike heavier than normal bicycles and in the evenings or during resting times, you do need to recharge these. With an e-bike you still need to pedal yourself and besides the occasional boost, a cycling trip won’t be much different than it was before the e-bike came to exist.


One of the biggest advantages we believe is that an electric bicycle makes it possible for two or more people with slightly different levels of fitness to still enjoy a great holiday together. Where couples, families or friends had to choose a different type of holiday before, the e-bike makes cycling trips accessible again.


In France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK the e-bikes have already found their place in the cycling culture and are therefore readily available on our cycling holidays to these countries. The below Sherpa Expeditions cycling holidays have e-bikes available:

Hybrid and electric bike hire are available at an additional cost.


Besides hybrid bicycles, electric bikes are also available for hire ad an extra fee.

Hybrid bicycle hire is included. If you prefer an e-bike, these are available on request against a supplement.


A 7 speed bicyle with pannier is included in the trip price, electric bikes are available on request and a supplement applies. 


Rental bicycle with panniers, a repair kit, bike computer and water bottle are included and on request e-bikes are available with an additional fee.  


Hybrid e-bikes can be booked on this trip as well as mountain bikes or normal hybride bicycles. 


Let us know in advance and we can provide the extra service of arranging e-bikes for you. 


E-bikes can be hired against an additional fee.


For more information or booking requests, please contact our team of travel experts.

Bordeaux: Wine & Wheels

The region that produces the biggest volume of fine wines in France and that, among our travellers, is also known as a great destination for cycle tours – Bordeaux aims to be known as the world's wine capital with the opening of a new museum.

Wine Museum

The banks of the Garonne River have long been dominated by wide boulevards and neoclassical buildings, but soon this will change. With the opening of an ultra-modern museum this June, Bordeaux will have a new landmark in the shape of the La Cité du Vin museum. The museum will “explore the evolution of wine and honour all vintages of the planet” and will be housed in a futuristic, glass-clad, curved building right on the banks of the Garonne. 


La Cite du Vin in Bordeaux - (c) XTU/ANAKA

A Bordeaux Cycle Tour

With a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares, Bordeaux is the largest wine growing area in France. On our eight-day cycling tour, which starts and ends in the wine capital, you can explore many of these vineyards. This gives you plenty of opportunity to experience the museum and at the same time discover the wine growing area with all your senses. 

We travel by bicycle through the vines of the Sauternes area, vineyards of the Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux, and along rivers meandering their way across beautiful countryside. Imposing castles will catch your eye on this Bordeaux cycle tour, while pine forests, sand dunes and the Atlantic coast will add a multitude of dimensions to your cycling trip through rural France.

Back in Bordeaux, you can choose to enjoy a last view of this stunning region from the top of the 55-metre tower of the La Cité du Vin to conclude your Bordeaux cycling tour. 

Bordeaux cycle tours with Sherpa Expeditions

Along the coast in Bordeaux - Sherpa Cycling Holidays

Cycling tours of the Bordeaux countryside - Sherpa Expeditions

If you like to receive more information on the museum or about our Bordeaux cycling tour, you can contact our team of travel experts or read more on The Vineyards of Bordeaux cycle tour. 

The Finest Cycling Holidays Across the UK

Spring is well on its way with prospects of a beautiful summer in the United Kingdom this year. Perhaps this got you started flirting with the idea of a cycling holiday in the UK in the coming months. With this in mind, we choose below some of our favourite cycling holidays across the UK . 

Rolling Through the Cotswolds

Cycling Holidays UK - Cotswolds cycle - Sherpa Expeditions

Also known as the ‘Heart of England’, a journey to the Cotswolds will present visitors with a mix of rolling hills, picture-perfect villages, wooded valleys, Roman roads and rustic old pubs for leisurely lunches. 
When exploring this charming part of England by bicycle, it’s a good idea to start in elegant Cheltenham. The village is dotted with Regency buildings and beautifully landscaped gardens. Because there is so much to see in the Cotswolds, it’s possible to cycle the landscape and sights that interest you best. What to think of classic wool towns, roman villas and stone churches, or riding down through colourful valleys for your next UK cycling holiday? 
>> Learn more about cycle tours in the UK's famous Cotswolds

Scottish Highlands at Handlebar Level

Cycling holidays UK - Scottish Highlands cycle - Sherpa Expeditions


Picture yourself cycling along scenic paths and quiet forest trails - spotting native wildlife such as red deer, stag or golden eagle. It’s all possible on a cycling holiday in the Scottish Highlands. 
There are some steep hills on the Cycle Way of the Great Glen that lead to magical views of Loch Ness. Via moorland and quiet country roads cyclists reach delightful Scottish towns. Bike riders can step off their bicycle at Fort William to ascend Ben Nevis or to ride in a historical steam train and of course to experience some of the distilleries along the cycle paths!  
>> Want to know more? Check out this Scottish Highlands cycle holiday 

Isle of Wight Cycle

Cycling HOlidays UK - Cycle the Isle of Wight tour - Sherpa Expeditions


Ideal for anyone looking for a short town-and-country cycling holiday. Because the Isle of Wight is so small, it’s great for a circular cycle tour in the UK. The terrain is undulating and distances are kept fairly short, giving cyclists enough time to stop and explore. 
Highlights of cycling on the Isle of Wight include sophisticated Cowes, world famous for its regatta; the astonishing brick-built Quarr Abbey; and taking the cycle path to Freshwater Bay, which follows an old railway line.
>> Learn more about this cycling holiday on the UK's Isle of Wight

Cycling Cornwall  

Cycling holidays UK - Cornwall cycle - Sherpa Expeditions


From Padstow to Land’s End through Lizard Point, this British cycling route goes to the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain. Cyclists get the chance to pedal through a patchwork of landscapes: from inland heaths and downs to tumbling coastlines and sheltered coves. 
Cyclists who take eight days for this route will see that the daily bicycle rides are not that long. This is perfect to go and explore the best of Cornwall’s sheltered coves and beautiful rivers, castles and gardens by bicycle.  

>> Find out about this cycling holiday in Cornwall

Want to know much more about cycle holidays in the UK and England or are interested to see our full range of self-guided cycling holidays in the UK? Contact our team of travel experts in our London office, or have a further browse at our cycling holidays in the UK

Gear Matters: GPS in Your System

Gear Matters-active European travel advice on walking gearEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view.  This month we have a look at global positioning systems (GPS) which are becoming increasingly popular with walkers and cyclists for following existing routes or creating new tracks. They can normally locate your global position to 100 metres or less and are a system in use by many walkers and cyclists. 

Gear matters: GPS in Your System

GPS originated as a military system controlled by the US, although other countries such as China have their own military versions, it has now been in the consumer domain since the early 1990s. The units have  decreased in price and become much more efficient over that time. The devices track satellites and normally four of those are needed to provide a global location. It usually takes a unit less than 5 minutes to locate itself assuming there are only minor obstructions to the sky.

As well as the traditional GPS handhelds such as Magellan, Garmin and Satnav, which are walker and cyclist friendly, you can also get software for your Android, Windows or iPhones. These do pretty much the same job. Both are different to the car navigation versions though, they don't shout at you in a voice of your choosing from a list including Darth Vader!


United Kingdom Walking Guide with GPS device - Sherpa Expeditions

The walking or cycling GPS models change every couple of years, and the best way to get a feel of the differences is to read online reviews on the devices or in walking or cycling magazines, such as Walk. We would recommend GPS devices with larger screens in terms of using them with maps. The budget models may only give you a Grid Reference and show you a route line or gradient graph without showing you where you are. In those cases you may want to transcribe this information to a map. Do make sure that you have your GPS device set up for the relevant map, e.g. 'OS British Grid' or 'IGN France'. 

More expensive units generally have water resistant casings, SD card slots for expanded route memory and pre manipulated maps on memory cards available detailing popular routes such as the Coast to Coast or Tour du Mont Blanc. With these you can walk more or less exactly along the route. The map systems are also very detailed, at least in countries where the mapping is already good, in others you may be presented with a very generalised representation.

You can also download GPS coordinates from different sites such as the LDWA Long Distance Walkers Association website in the UK or from the various long distance path sites. You can also laboriously preload a route by working out the grid references manually by using a map and typing them in to your GPS handheld. Once you have walked your route, recording it on the GPS, you can download the results on programmes such as 'Memory Map' to generate statistics and route graphs. It's amazing to see your trip represented like this!

Interested in more? Read our 5 points to Keep in Mind When Using GPS article, or for more information on using GPS devices on your walking on cylcing holiday with Sherpa Expeditions, please contact our team of experts in our London office